Eagles

5 winners and losers from Eagles' spring practices

5 winners and losers from Eagles' spring practices

The Eagles wrapped up their three-day mandatory minicamp with a short indoor practice on Thursday and are now on a break until training camp in late July. 

In total, there were 13 practices this spring, 10 OTAs and three minicamp days. Of them, reporters were allowed to watch seven of them. I was at all seven, but this piece comes with the caveat that I was allowed to watch just over half of the team’s total practices this spring. 

I think by now you’ve realized that Carson Wentz is a big winner from the spring. Even without his play on the field, he got a huge contract extension with over $100 million in guaranteed money. And on the field, he’s been really good too. He’s looked so good, Howie Roseman joked he felt more pressure to get the deal done with every practice. Wentz, sans knee brace, looks healthy, he looks strong, he looks like the guy who had a near-MVP season two years ago. Wentz has been showing off his arm strength, touch and mobility over the last few weeks. He could be in line for a big season. 

Anyway, here are five other winners and losers from the last few weeks: 

Winners 

Dallas Goedert 

The Eagles don’t even consider Goedert to be a backup as he enters Year 2. They have two starting tight ends and are going to play in 12 personnel quite a bit this season. We started to see it last year, but in these camps, Goedert is always using his big body to separate the ball from defender. He’s a clear red-zone threat and will likely be used in that role again. Four of his 33 catches last year (12 percent) went for touchdowns. Expect more of that this year.  

JJ Arcega-Whiteside 

As the fourth receiver, I’m not sure how much Arcega-Whiteside is going to play as a rookie, but he will deserve snaps in the red zone. We’ve seen incredible body control from the second-round rookie this spring. It seems like every practice, we’ve seen him leap up and make spectacular grabs, using his basketball background and elite body control. He has been very impressive. 

Boston Scott 

The stout running back has looked good in these practices and has drawn comparisons to Darren Sproles. That might be a little premature, but it’s easy to see why. Scott is a short back with some cutting ability and ability to catch out of the backfield. Really, being a punt returner might be his best chance of making the roster as the Eagles’ fourth running back. 

Avonte Maddox 

Without Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, Maddox has gotten all first-team reps this spring, along with Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones. Honestly, all three have looked good, but I wanted to single out Maddox, who has thrived inside and outside. I found it interesting that at times this spring, he’s been playing outside in base and inside in nickel. I’m still not saying he absolutely has to be on the field as a starter, but he’s making a strong case. 

Andrew Sendejo 

Everyone was ready to cut Sendejo to save a compensatory pick and maybe that still happens, but I think he has a good shot of sticking around. He’s clearly the third safety and has consistently made plays all spring. I guess that’s to be expected for a well-rested 31-year-old veteran. When Malcolm Jenkins showed up for minicamp, it was Sendejo and not Tre Sullivan as the other starting safety in the absence of recovering Rodney McLeod. 

Losers 

Miles Sanders 

The rookie second-round running back participated in rookie minicamp but missed all 13 practices in OTAs and mandatory minicamp with a hamstring injury. It’s not the end of the world, but even Doug Pederson admitted “it hurts a little bit.” It’ll be up to Sanders to stay in the playbook and catch up quickly when training camp comes. 

Clayton Thorson

The rookie QB got off to a hot start, but really cooled off later this spring. There’s a lot going on for a rookie quarterback and maybe it just started to overwhelm him a little. He clearly has plenty of arm strength and his legs are better in person than on tape, but his accuracy hasn’t been great recently. All a part of the learning curve for a fifth-round rookie QB, I suppose.  

Cre'Von LeBlanc

It’s not that Strap hasn’t played well this spring; he actually has. But even without Darby and Mills, he still didn’t get any first-team reps. In the practices we’ve seen, all those reps went to Douglas, Jones and Maddox. LeBlanc played really well in the slot as a starter late last season, but he’s been relegated to the second team this spring. He’s the sixth CB on the roster.  

Shelton Gibson 

This time last year, Gibson had a tremendous offseason; haven’t seen that this year. I didn’t really notice Gibson too much all spring and then he got hurt, missing the last two days of camp with an undisclosed injury. Before the injury, guys like Arcega-Whiteside, Charles Johnson and Greg Ward were getting first-team reps over him. Gibson is a really good gunner on the punt team, but will that be enough to keep his roster spot? And, now, it looks like Mack Hollins will be back for training camp. 

Stefen Wisniewski

Wiz couldn’t find a starting job as a free agent so he returned as a backup here. Fine. But this spring, the Eagles have been using Halapoulivaati Vaitai as their first-team right guard in place of a recovering Brandon Brooks. And it seems like the Eagles are prepping Big V to play there this season if Brooks isn’t ready to go for the opener. Maybe this is just a case of the Eagles’ knowing what they have in Wiz, but it doesn’t seem great that he might not be the top backup guard.

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After being on other side, Jatavis Brown ready to show Eagles fans what he can do

After being on other side, Jatavis Brown ready to show Eagles fans what he can do

Jatavis Brown remembers that October 2017 game when the Eagles traveled to face the Los Angeles Chargers at the then-Stub Hub Center and Eagles fans took over the 25,000-seat venue. 

By kickoff, it was basically a home game for the Eagles with about 70 percent of the stands green. 

Brown, who joined the Eagles as a free agent this offseason, played 68 defensive snaps for the Chargers in their 26-24 loss that day. While Brown was diplomatic about his time with the Chargers — he said he loved every moment — he’s clearly looking forward to playing for Eagles fans after three years of playing in front of the smallest home crowds in the NFL. 

“Actually, looking back on it and how they filled that stadium,” Brown said on a conference call Tuesday, “it is exciting for me.” 

The real question is what kind of player are Eagles fans going to see? 

Brown, 26, is coming off his four-year rookie contract with the Chargers. In those four years, he had some ups and downs but ended up playing in 56 games with 23 starts. But in 2019, his role was reduced to the point where he played just 94 defensive snaps. His ProFootballFocus grade has dropped in each of his four NFL seasons. 

The former fifth-round pick showed promise early on but never really became a consistent starter. 

Asked about his play style, Brown wants people to know he’s versatile. He also doesn’t think changing to a new scheme, even amid unusual circumstances, will be a problem for him. 

“Just a playmaker, man,” Brown said when asked about what he’ll bring to the Eagles. “Somebody that’s going to go out and compete every day and give it my all. Find my role on this team and achieve that role the best way I can.”

The one important thing that Brown didn’t mention about himself is something you should know: He’s fast. Really fast. 

Brown is an undersized linebacker even in an age of undersized linebackers — he’s listed at 5-11, 221 — but his speed makes up for it. There’s a reason the Eagles were interested in him before the 2016 draft when he was coming out of Akron. 

While Brown ran a 4.44 at his pro day, that time would have been tops for all linebackers at the 2016 combine. 

Back in 2016, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote that Brown’s athleticism had “NFL teams feeling some type of way, which means he's likely to go late Day 2 or early Day 3.” But that didn’t happen. Brown ended up being the last pick in the fifth round in 2016 — the Eagles had two fifth-rounders and still didn’t take him. 

So maybe it would be a bit much to expect Brown to become a strong rotational player, let alone a starter in Philadelphia. But there is opportunity here for him. The only returning linebackers are Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley and Alex Singleton. 

It seems like Brown still has some potential, but if it doesn’t work out, the Eagles haven’t invested much in him. 

Brown’s one-year contract with the Eagles is worth $1.047 million but it’s a Veteran Salary Benefit deal so he’ll count just $887,500 against the cap. With just $500K of his base salary guaranteed, there’s really no guarantee he’ll even make the roster. This is an even cheaper deal than L.J. Fort got last season and is more on par with what the Eagles paid guys like Paul Worrilow and LaRoy Reynolds in recent seasons. 

The Eagles have neglected to use top resources on the linebacker position for years now and most of their gambles haven’t paid off. Maybe they’re due. And maybe Brown is the guy who will change all that. 

That would make his new fanbase happy. 

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Will Eagles legend Jason Peters even have an NFL job in 2020?

Will Eagles legend Jason Peters even have an NFL job in 2020?

Kamu signed. Nelly signed. Bradham signed. 
 
Most of them have signed.
 
Thirteen of the Eagles’ 17 free agents have signed somewhere, four back with the Eagles, nine with new teams.
 
Josh McCown, Vinny Curry and Corey Clement remain unsigned, which isn't surprising.
 
And then there’s Jason Peters, who remains without a team 2 1/2 weeks into free agency. Which is surprising.
 
It took Peters’ backup, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, less than a day to land a five-year, $45 million contract. He’s started four games over the last two years.
 
But Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowler and two-time all-pro, remains out of work.
 
Going into free agency, Peters was rated as a top-50 free agent on CBS’s list of the top 100 free agents - and he was No. 1 among Eagles. But he’s one of only two of those top 50 that hasn’t signed. The other is cornerback Logan Ryan.
 
Peters, by all accounts, remains a very good left tackle. So why is he still looking for a job 17 days after the start of free agency?
 
Hee’s five possible reasons:
 
1) HE’S 38: Peters turned 38 in January, so the only teams that would be interested are teams that need a left tackle and are in win-now mode, maybe with a promising young tackle who needs a mentor and isn’t quite ready to play. But there just aren’t many of those teams. There have only been five offensive tackles in NFL history who’ve been full-time starters at 38 or older (Ray Brown, Andrew Whitworth, Lomas Brown, Mike Kenn and Jackie Slater). That history can’t help Peters’ value.
 
2) THE INJURIES: He’s not the player he was during his prime, but when he’s been healthy he’s played well. But Peters has started and finished only 31 of a possible 54 games since 2017, and teams have to be wondering whether Peters can stay healthy enough to be worth signing. The sight of Peters limping off the field in the middle of a game became fairly frequent over the last few seasons. Nobody questions Peters’ toughness, but he’s averaged only 10 complete games per year over the last three seasons, and a year older it’s tough to think that number is going to go up. That could be scaring teams away.
 
3) THE DRAFT: The draft later this month is stocked with left tackles. As many as six could go in the first round and there could be four or five taken just in the first 20 picks. The draft is loaded, and if you’re a team that needs a left tackle - the Dolphins, Cards, Jets, Broncos and Giants are among those that could use one - why sign Peters when you might be about to land your franchise guy in three weeks? And if you’re getting him in the top 20 picks, you’re counting on him to start from Day 1. And you’re getting a young, healthy guy who’s going to be on a four-year, cap friendly rookie deal. 
 
4) MONEY: We don’t know how much Peters is looking for, and his contract demands are certainly dropping. But it’s possible he’s priced himself out of the market. This is a guy who’s made about $70 million in his career, and it’s hard to imagine he’s interested in playing for minimum wage. He made $6 million last year, and he’s a very proud guy, a likely Hall of Famer. If somebody offered him $2 million for one year? Maybe he’s just not interested.
 
5) THE OFFSEASON: Because the NFL has cancelled all of its spring activities, Peters can’t work out for teams that might be interested, and when you’re 38 and you’ve been battling injuries, teams could be reluctant to sign you without their own doctors checking you out.
 
The Future
 
When the Eagles cut ties with Peters, they issued a statement saying among other things: “We will remain in communication as each side continues to evaluate its options in free agency.”
 
So what are the chances they bring him back? 
 
Small.
 
The Eagles traded up to draft Andre Dillard last year for a reason. If they truly wanted Peters to play left tackle in 2020, they never would have let him go in the first place.
 
Would Peters come back as a backup? The only backup tackle the Eagles have at this point is Jordan Mailata, who has never played a snap in a meaningful football game on any level. Guard Matt Pryor might get a look outside.
 
Would Peters come back as a sub if he can’t get a job elsewhere? 
 
Would it be fair to Dillard to have an all-time great backing him up? Would Peters be able to transition from a guy who expects to play every Sunday to possibly having to come off the bench at a moment’s notice? Would the Eagles even want to risk having a backup tackle that’s injury prone?
 
Lots of questions.
 
It still seems more likely than not that Peters will be on the field somewhere for an 18th NFL season. But with each passing day, the chances grow that his brilliant career could be over.

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